“Jahan se tum mujhe laaye ho, main wahaan wapas nahi jaana chahti..
Jahan bhi le jaa rahe ho, wahaan pahunchna nahi chaahti.
Par yeh raasta, yeh bahut accha hai..
Main chahti hoon ki yeh raasta kabhi khatam na ho!”
The year was 2014, the day was 21st Feb.
Being a big fan of Imtiaz Ali right from ‘Jab We Met’ to ‘Rockstar’ (ironically discovered his ‘Socha Na Tha’ later after Highway), and having admired Alia Bhatt in her confident debut ‘Student of the Year’; I sat to watch (or rather set off on) this journey of a movie righteously titled – ‘Highway’. It changed the way I looked at the idea of home and travelling, especially developing the love for the routes more than the destination they lead to.
Highlighting precisely just two sequences as notably “loud”, the initial kidnapping and the climax confrontation, the director Imtiaz chose to convey the thoughts in Highway much subtly as well as serenely through the lens of Anil Mehta; letting silences do more talking than the words.
So, post revisiting the movie just another time, I, in a chronological order, list down my 5 favorites scenes or moments from this serene spell of a cinematic trip:
Scene 1: Please leave this House
The storyteller Imtiaz Ali, with the cinematographer Anil Mehta, seemed pretty clear of his ‘big picture’ right from the beginning. Opening the visuals to picturesque views traveling through North Indian highway roads, the following proceedings around Veera’s wedding are shown in a mini lens on screen, as maybe that was equal to how much she herself cared about the same.
The expressions of the actors in the above shot convey it all. Feeling claustrophobic in her own grand luxurious house forced to call “home”, she somehow convinces her rather reluctant fiancée to set off in an Audi A8 (her last materialistic luxury in the movie) for what she termed “just a 5 min break” journey. Having a vague imagery of her dream world always within, she was unaware here of her fate post this sequence!
Scene 2 : To be or not to be – “Tameezdaar”
She’s far now from her Delhi villa. The narrative was proceeding smoothly, and I was absorbing in the “journey” that the movie was, as Veera tends to absorb the fact that the world outside her room wasn’t even remotely similar to what she was always subjected to. Not being the center of attraction and having no one around to ‘properly’ talk to becomes such a welcome change for her. Her world has always been so “tameezdaar” that her parents refer to her as “Aap”.
So, the above shot is the first reaction Veera receives from her kidnapper Mahabir, when she finally gets a while to realize that this world is so distant and distinct from her “tameezdaar” world, which was all about her staying in rooms – the rooms of the houses to the rooms of the hotels at the places she traveled to with her family.
Scene 3: This Journey shall go on..
Keeping minimal sound in the background by this juncture in the movie, Imtiaz had made me accustomed to these roads, the roads sans any sign of the destination. Seems that much similar was the case with Veera too, who finally had fallen for her routine and ever-changing address – the co-driver seat of the truck.
So, when the world of realism was suddenly thrown at us in the name of Punjab Police check-post at the highway, I didn’t want this journey to end so soon. Similar was the case with Veera, who instead of escaping out to the police, chooses to continue this journey of self – discovery with her kidnapper Mahabir. The impact of this barely started journey was such hard on her that just in the following sequence, she ends up narrating a prime and heartbreaking anecdote of her childhood to Mahabir, post which the dynamics between them change for the warmer.
Scene 4: Mahabir smiles
They both had shared their stories of the past with each other, and now perpetually tend to play a ‘humane’ catalyst for the mutual growth of each other. Veera did tell Mahabir that how she herself doesn’t know how things would turn out for them in the time ahead. All she knew was that she felt safe in his vicinity.
Moments before this shot, she had deliberately escaped the Himachal police to again seek his warm and protective companionship for the time it could last, eventually making the unexpected happened – this frame! The tough soul of Mahabir finally succumbed to delivering an expression of his feelings with a grin; which totally changed the way I looked at their bond. It wasn’t a romanticized love for sure, and strictly not Stockholm Syndrome. It was just a celebration of their togetherness that they both knew shall last, though mutually unaware until when.
Scene 5: Welcome to the Home!
The mountains were where her heart always dwelled. So, Veera being herself, tells her another wish to Mahabir of having her own “home” somewhere amidst the mountains, kilometers both above and away from her posh Delhi bungalow. Mahabir too being himself, tells her to choose any of those houses on those mountains as “Sab apne hee hain!”.
This house in the above frame that she eventually chose as “hers” had no luxury of her usual bed in an AC room, but this is what she had longed for all this while. I loved how her “Highway” journey had got her to the destination she desired, and how she stopped and felt the vibe of her home here in the hut amidst the Himalayan mountains of Kashmir. In the above shot, she tells her kidnapper turned best companion to move out of “her home” for a while, while she would clean it and cook food (Maggi twas) for him with her best of efforts.
There’s so much more to the movie that makes it the eventual experience that it indeed is. Still after all this time, the movie still charms me more with the silences that develop during the tender moments of our leads. The moments after the last sequence mentioned above rather disturb me – the noise of the guns or the final shout of Veera, that leads to her breaking all fetters of societal pressures that pressurized her to be “tameezdaar” to everyone closest to her.
Like her family, anyone won’t understand this Veera’s journey of self-discovery and love, until you too let yourself loose and get yourself seated with her, traveling on the road leading nowhere!
Edit-1 (April,2020): The director Imtiaz Ali finally read this article and gave his thoughtful and heartwarming feedback to it.
Watch the Movie here: Highway Full Movie – Hotstar
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